At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.

A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.

Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.

The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."

One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”

By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."


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Recent News: 12 String Guitars

Source: Google News

Album with '80s sound doubles as ARF fundraiser
Bristol Press, June 29th

Hock plays lead and rhythm guitar, acoustic six-string and 12-string guitar, and bass. Scott Waters of Watertown sings. Matt Glasser of Manchester plays drums. Phil Mann of Coventry plays keyboards and was the engineer and producer of the album...Read more

5 Great Chris Squire Bass Songs in Memory of The Legendary Yes-Man
Music Times, June 28th

particularly handy when he released his sole solo album Fish Out of Water (yes...he really dug the "Fish" theme). The best track on that album, "Silently Falling," features a typically excellent bassline from the headliner, as well as vocals and a...Read more

New open mic offers opportunity, entertainment
The News-Press, June 25th

Instruments and expertise levels vary as well, from high-level six-string guitar amateurs to a mandolin player to a gig musician playing the difficult-to-master 12-string guitar. Always spontaneous, a very enjoyable concert can be had for the price of...Read more

ArtWalk dominates Salida music scene
Mountain Mail Newspaper, June 25th

4-5:30 p.m. – Rick Matiya sings and plays 12-string guitar on Moonlight Stage. Matiya says his music is influenced by the songs of Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, among others. 4:30-5 p.m. – Rusty Ford sings light rock and plays ...Read more

Jessica Pratt, Ryley Walker otherworldly at Great Scott
Boston Globe, June 24th

With Walker anchoring the songs on his 12-string guitar, on which he picked swirling patterns, his bandmates plunged into murky realms of jazz, blues, and psychedelia — usually with their eyes shut as if locked into some interstellar groove. Walker's...Read more

Keith Richards reflects on Sticky Fingers and the song he wishes he'd played on
Sydney Morning Herald, June 13th

The album's new reissue includes deluxe versions and live tracks, alternate takes of Brown Sugar, Bitch, Can't You Hear Me Knocking and Dead Flowers, and an acoustic mix of Wild Horses emphasising the open-tuned 12-string guitar Richards played on the ...Read more

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a Kona Signature Series 12 String Acoustic Guitar!
Rock Cellar Magazine, June 5th

kona 12-string guitar giveaway prize june 2015 We're back with another giveaway! Congratulations to Buddy of Hinckley, Ohio for winning our last giveaway. Up for grabs this month is a Kona Signature Series 12-String Acoustic Guitar with Solid Spruce Top!...Read more

12-String Setup Secrets
Premier Guitar, February 9th

A handful of musicians have built their careers around the 12-string guitar—Lead Belly, Leo Kottke, and Roger McGuinn come to mind—but for most guitarists, an electric or acoustic 12-string is a specialty instrument to be hauled out when a song needs...Read more